By William Benjamin Carpenter
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print Publication Year:2011
Online Publication Date:August 2011
Original Publication Year:1877
Subjects: History of ideas and intellectual history
William Carpenter (1813–1885) was a leading medical teacher and researcher in London. Although much of his work focused on physiology and the nervous system, he spent a considerable amount of time investigating questions surrounding the relationship between science and religion. He participated in many debates on this issue, and was a member of the prestigious Metaphysical Society, which explored scientific and religious connections. In Mesmerism, Spiritualism, etc. Historically and Scientifically Considered, two of his lectures published in 1877, Carpenter sets out to question on scientific grounds the many spiritualist beliefs that were gaining popularity throughout Britain. His work covers topics such as odylism, electro-biology, thought-reading and clairvoyance. He locates these practices in historical contexts that often stretch back to ancient times, and gives modern scientific explanations for certain phenomena, all with the aim of stifling what he called 'epidemic delusions'.